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  • Writer's pictureTeish O'Connell

Becoming a māmā and returning to work

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Parental leave feels like a daunting period of time in your life which you usually have a few months to prepare for, while you actually have no idea what it is you need to be prepared for.

As a first-time māmā you are managing so many changes at once within yourself and your whānau, and you now need to navigate the complexities of leave, your income, other support systems like how often nanny and koro can have their moko, or if you need to look at relocating your whānau to find your papakāinga (home base/village). You are questioning every decision you make for you, your pēpi, your whānau, your mahi, and the impact it will have on your future. Hā ki roto, you hold on.

Teish and her baby smiling in embrace outdoors

You learn to let go of so many things and aspects of yourself throughout hapūtanga (pregnancy). Your body and your life gradually change to help you prepare for your biggest journey, even when you don’t feel quite ready. And then, all of a sudden the time comes for someone to step into your shoes at work while you await the arrival of your pēpi. A day you cannot schedule. A time you cannot move. An experience you cannot control. Hā ki waho, you let go.

You begin to embody your ira wāhine (feminine/motherly/women energy) – a force that grows within you and expands like it had always been right there, just waiting for you to be ready. Some of us are blessed with the desire to embrace this ira with flow and grace, but others are not so lucky. Postpartum is a bumpy ride and guess what? You’re not steering this waka. Hā ki roto, e hine.

No amount of antenatal classes, TikTok videos, or other parents confiding in you could prepare you for the late nights, the mood swings, the breastfeeding battle, the parenting guilt, or the on-going recovery rollercoaster. It’s a real ‘expectations vs. reality’ kind of experience, and the only thing that helped me keep it all together was my whānau and my hapori (community). It has been the people knocking on the door with kai, it has been the aunties giving cuddles to baby so I can rest, it has been our support networks that have kept us nurtured and afloat. Nei rā te mihi nunui ki a rātou... we are forever grateful for all of them. Hā ki waho.

When the thought of returning to work crossed my mind, I was so excited to feel my career-driven self re-emerge. It was a like a small part of my soul lit up again. But then I realised how unprepared my whānau and I really were for this transition, and the thought quickly became daunting and overwhelming. It is in these moments that you truly realise how important your mahi is as it has a massive influence over how you do you. It can and will be the difference between your whānau thriving or just surviving through your life’s challenges and changes. Seriously, hā ki roto!

Luckily, I had so much encouragement and support from my NAIA whānau to return to the office, and after a few discussions with Criz on how we could make it work, I was excited all over again. With keeping-in-touch hours, flexible working, a whānau-friendly workplace and a compassionate team, we were ready to jump back in. It is incredibly special to have colleagues who welcome my baby into their space with open arms as we walk through the door. Walking into NAIA is like walking into your nan’s place; the jug is chucked on, biscuits are about to get broken into, and everyone’s fighting over who gets to have cuddles with baby first. NAIA has not only provided me with a warm and safe place to find my feet as a māmā trying to balance life and work, but each and every person has provided my pēpi with love and laughter – they too are my hapori.

Hā ki waho māmā. You’re home.

Nā Anteisha O’Connell

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1 Comment

Oct 16, 2023

All the best for your return to mahi, Teish. We got this, Māmā ☺️☺️

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